It is time to tell people why they recycle and not just how

My last blog about where our dry recycling ends up has raised some really important points that are worth picking up on.


David Stowe was the first to respond and talked about a “green fatigue” afflicting the debate. The main thrust of his argument is that we need to tell people why they recycle and not just how; a sentiment that I have a lot of sympathy with.

However, I am not sure that I concur with his assessment that Joe Public rarely listens to local authorities. Recycling take-up varies so much across the population and for every resident that clearly doesn’t give a damn about recycling, there is another that is quite fanatical about diverting as much waste away from landfill as possible.

Interestingly, recycling figures from Defra in November reveal that several local authorities that have paired up with Recyclebank, the company that motivates people to take everyday green actions by rewarding this behaviour with exclusive offers, have seen their recycling performance grow faster than the national average.

But incentivising the public to increase their recycling can only be part of the solution. David is correct – we do need to explain why it’s so important to recycle and this is where I think he is on to something when he talks about the mainstream media. Yes, he’s right, they don’t appear to be very interested at all but it’s a cracking story that is just waiting to be uncovered in an in-depth documentary series.

In our drive to encourage circularity in the economy and impending issues around resource security, we really do need to make the case that maximising the value from products is crucial to our long-term prosperity.  Come on BBC, what are you waiting for?

Adding to the blog responses, Ray Georgeson is right to say that the public clearly want more information on what happens to the recycling and where it goes. The Resource Association and LARAC have launched the End Destination of Recycling Charter to try and address this very issue.

Whether recycling is reprocessed in the UK into new products (which would be the preference) or exported legally for the same purpose, information about where our dry recycling ends up should be made available, he says and I agree.

As Georgeson argues, not only would this aid public understanding of the process, it would also generate confidence that collected recycling actually gets recycled.

Nick Warburton

Topics: Waste & resource management
Tags: | population | resource security
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